California workers won’t have to worry about off-hours marijuana use

According to a new state law, it will soon be illegal for California employers to allow employees’ off-the-job and off-work marijuana use to be a factor in hiring or firing decisions.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday signed legislation making California the seventh state in the United States not to allow employers to discriminate against workers who smoke weed “off the job and off the job.” The new law will come into force on January 1, 2024.

The law prohibits employers from making hiring, firing, or other employment decisions based on a drug test that finds “non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites” in a person’s hair or urine that indicate not a current impairment, but that someone recently , up to weeks earlier, has used cannabis. per Assembly Bill 2188 sponsored by Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward).

“Urine testing is a highly objectionable invasion of workers’ personal physical privacy,” said Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of NORML, which advocates for progressive marijuana policy, of the law once it was passed. “Workers should have the same right to use cannabis as they have any other legal substance outside of work.”

Jim Araby, director of strategic campaigns for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, called the new law a “victory for all workers.”

“No employee deserves to feel stigmatized and unsafe at work because of an outdated testing method,” Araby said. “There are much more accurate modern cannabis testing methods, like mouth swabs, that are able to detect recent use and increase safety in the workplace.”

The new law provides exceptions for people who work in construction, as well as people applying for or working in positions that require federal background clearance.

The law still allows employers to require drug screening as a condition of employment, so long as the tests “do not check for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites.” After cannabis use, the chemical compound that can produce psychoactive effects, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, becomes a non-psychoactive cannabis metabolite that can linger in the system for weeks. This metabolite is not indicative of current impairment.

Newsom signed the Employment Discrimination Act into law on Sunday along with nine other cannabis policy amendments, including one that would seal old cannabis-related criminal convictions and create a process for interstate cannabis business transactions.

“For too many Californians, the promise of cannabis legalization remains unachievable,” Newsom said in a statement. “These actions build on the important strides our state has made towards this goal, but much work remains to build an equitable, safe and sustainable legal cannabis industry.”

The new laws come weeks after The Times published an investigation into the implications of the state’s legal cannabis industry, which found the illegal cannabis industry has only grown since legalization in 2016, often affecting farm workers, the environment, safety of the communities and the licensed market pay the price.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-19/marijuana-law-california-employment-firing-hiring California workers won’t have to worry about off-hours marijuana use

Alley Einstein

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